By Eric Durr, New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs October 21, 2011
PRETORIA, South Africa, Oct. 21, 2011 -- Two New Army York National Guard MPs got a first-hand look at how the South African National Defense Force trains its military cops during a two-day visit the South African Military Police School in September.
The five-day trip took Lt. Col. David Gagnon, the commander of the 104th Military Police Battalion and Sgt. 1st Class Morgan Cady, the law and order noncommissioned officer, or NCO, for the 104th, to the South African capitol of Pretoria.
The goal of the trip, conducted as part of the New York National Guard's State Partnership Program with the South African military, was to learn about each other's military police operations and to start to build a training partnership, Gagnon said.
There are some basic differences in how the two nations use their military police, Gagnon said.
The U.S. Army's Military Police Corps is oriented on the combat support mission of route security and reconnaissance and area security operations more than the law enforcement mission, while the South African military police focus mostly on law enforcement.
The South African Military Police Agency deals with all crimes involving service members. They are also involved with the protection of VIPs and dignitaries, almost like the Secret Service, Gagnon explained.
The South African MP corps is also much smaller with 2,000 military police members for a 75,000- person force. The American military, in contrast, has 54,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marine in MP and law and order functions.
While each American service trains its own law enforcement and military police personnel, in South African they all train at the Pretoria Academy, Gagnon said. The advantage is that military police officers in each branch of the South African military share the same basic background which can make working together easier, he added.
Gagnon and Cady were impressed with the quality of the training, Gagnon said. They sat in on an investigative class talking about the use of autopsies in investigations and the next day the class observed and autopsy.
The two New Yorkers also got to spend some time playing tourist and getting a look at the country; and also learning how South Africa's pre-1994 history of white minority rule influences the police and military today, Gagnon said.
"We spent one day where we went to view the Apartheid Museum (in Johannesburg) and our escort was involved with the events of that time," Gagnon said. "He took us to all the sites where significant actions were. It gave you a different look at why they have limited the military in domestic operations."